CONSERVATIVES have disowned proposals for child benefit and tax credit cuts reportedly discussed under the coalition, insisting they would “never” be supported by the Prime Minister or Chancellor.
Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said that the £8 billion cuts - including means-testing child benefit, removing it from 16-to-19-year-olds and limiting the benefit and child tax credit to two children per family - were floated by Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and blocked by Liberal Democrats in 2012.
The senior Lib Dem claimed they were a sign of where the axe might fall to deliver the £12 billion welfare reductions promised by Chancellor George Osborne if the Conservatives win next week’s General Election.
He said he was taking the unusual step of revealing the proposals because the Tories were “trying to con the British people by keeping their planned cuts secret”.
But a Conservative spokesman rejected the claim, insisting: “This set of policies was never proposed or supported by the Prime Minister and Chancellor and would never be proposed or supported by the PM and Chancellor.”
With just a week to go until polling stations open across the UK on May 7, David Cameron told the Guardian it was “time to throw caution to the winds, let rip and tell people what you really think”.
The Prime Minister - who has in recent days deployed a more energetic approach after criticism of a lacklustre pitch to the electorate - said: “I think we will get there. But the reason it is taking time is, quite rightly, people want to have a good look and a good think.”
After a full month of campaigning, a ComRes poll for the Daily Mail found more than four in 10 people (41%) are yet to make up their minds which way to vote and the main parties remain neck-and-neck on 35% support each.
A second poll by YouGov for The Sun put Tories ahead by a single point, on 35% to Labour’s 34%.
The Sun gave its endorsement to the Conservatives, warning readers tempted by Ukip to reconsider or risk “bringing a Labour/SNP nightmare closer by eroding Tory chances”.
But the paper’s Scottish edition came out in favour of the Scottish National Party, who polls suggest are on track to score heavy gains at Labour’s expense, and maybe even scoop all 59 seats north of the border.
As party leaders prepared for the campaign’s final televised set-piece, Ed Miliband was urging voters to “put your families first” and ignore “false promises” from the Conservatives.
Mr Miliband was due to warn there were just seven days to stop a Conservative victory which would benefit the wealthiest while squeezing family budgets.
“David Cameron will do anything he can to distract you from the real choice,” he will say.
“He wants to distract you by banging on about deals with other parties after the election because he has nothing to say about the real issues in this election: the NHS, immigration, family living standards, and the future of our children.
“Britain can’t afford five more years of wasted talent and ruined futures.”
The Labour leader will take 30 minutes of questions from a special BBC Question Time audience between similar live sessions for Mr Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
Each party’s supporters will make up a quarter of the audience, with 15% drawn from the ranks of those supporting smaller outfits and 10% from those yet to make up their minds.
Ukip’s Nigel Farage, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru will take part in smaller-scale individual events broadcast exclusively in England, Scotland and Wales respectively.
Ahead of the debate, Mr Cameron will make a pitch for the youth vote, claiming a million under-30s have already been taken out of the income tax system by rises in the personal allowance and another 500,000 to follow by 2020.
Launching a Five Point Guarantee for young people at an event in Yorkshire, Mr Cameron will promise that by 2020 disadvantaged young people will be twice as likely to enter higher education than under Labour.
It comes after Mr Miliband sought to harness the YouTube generation with a controversial interview with comedian-turned-activist Russell Brand, which Mr Cameron said was “a joke”.
The potential influence of younger votes was highlighted by a poll suggesting as many as 60% of 18-to-24-year-olds are expressing themselves as certain to vote.
In an encouraging sign for Mr Cameron, while the age group favoured Labour by 34% to 23%, according to YouGov research for the British Youth Council, the gap had narrowed from 36% to 19% in a similar survey in February.